Darren Richardson

6. Chief, "Get Smart." Many years ago, while still under obligation to the United States Armed Forces, Punditty was sent on a mission to Southeast Asia that remains classified to this day.

The CIA station chief there – let’s just call him Mr. X – was a living, breathing example of the intrepid American Spirit that won the Cold War. Like Chief on “Get Smart,” Mr. X was one of the tens of thousands of Cold Warriors whose success depended to a large degree upon blending in. There are no parades, public appearances or posed grip-and-grin shots for spies -- just eternal vigilance and, by necessity, an ongoing dance with the art of survival.

One night over beers and vodka, Mr. X asked Punditty to guess who his primary role model in the intelligence field might be.

“Colby?” Punditty ventured, knowing all too well which particular tentacle of The Octopus had provided Mr. X with his station’s means and mission, at least since the fall of Saigon.

“Not even close,” Mr. X said. “If you'd been paying attention, you would have known without hesitation. But I could give you a hundred guesses and you still wouldn't guess right. So let me give it to you straight."

“You do that,” Punditty rejoined, but Mr. X poured shots and opened fresh beers first. He fastened his stare to Punditty’s eyes with an interrogator’s determination but asked nothing.

“Chief,” he finally said. One syllable, one breath. Perplexed, Punditty started to seek clarification, but Mr. X was already a step ahead. At least one. “You know, Chief on ‘Get Smart.'"

At first, Punditty thought Mr. X was joking, but then it all began to make sense: The unflinching decisiveness; the emphasis on maintaining a secure means of contact with HQ; the mental mindset to always stay at least three steps ahead of everyone else, be they friend, foe or half-soused envoys dispatched by IMCOM.

“Not so fast, chief,” Punditty attempted in his best Maxwell Smart, but it was too late. He had already been drugged with a truth serum, slipped into his last shot of vodka by Mr. X’s dexterous hands.

Fortunately for Punditty, it was just a war game exercise and not a real-world scenario. Mr. X had been drinking non-alcoholic beer and water; Punditty had been pounding Tsingtao and Grey Goose. In retrospect, it’s no surprise things ended the way they did.

It was a lesson in not letting one’s guard down, and Punditty simply got outfoxed. But he did learn something very important. Ever since that night, he’s paid close attention to Edward Platt in his role as Chief on “Get Smart.” If you make the time to watch it regularly, the entire "Get Smart" DVD set is one of the best investments you can make in your own personal security. And remember -- it comes highly recommended from one of the top American spies of the last half-century.

Watch Chief's can-do, take-charge attitude in the segment linked to above.

The Countdown resumes soon with No. 5!


The Punditty Pantheon of TV Greats can be viewed in full at: